It’s time: Broncos founder calls for another Queensland team
FOUNDING Broncos director Barry Maranta has launched a stinging criticism of the modern state of the Brisbane club, insisting the deterioration of the NRL powerhouse is proof that the Queensland capital needs a second NRL team.
Expansion has been the buzz word of the week following comments made by the man most likely to succeed John Grant as ARL Commission chairman, Peter Beattie, reigniting the debate as to the merits of a second team in Brisbane.
Thirty years ago Maranta was part of a four-man consortium that brought the first NSWRL team to Brisbane, signing a three-year Queensland exclusivity deal that lasted only a week before the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants were admitted by NSWRL hierarchy.
The South Queensland Crushers' entry into the renamed Australian Rugby League in 1995 gave Brisbane fans a second side but only for three years as poor on-field results and financial difficulties with the Super League war as a backdrop led to the club's demise.
But Maranta says the lack of any Broncos representatives in the Queensland Emerging Origin squad that assembled on the Gold Coast last weekend is evidence that the club has lost some of its lustre.
Corey Norman, Ash Taylor and Jai Arrow were part of the Emerging Origin squad and all made their NRL debuts at Brisbane, while the likes of Dane Gagai and Jarrod Wallace have gone on to represent the Maroons in recent years after leaving the Broncos.
"To be quite honest, I think the Broncos have diminished sadly," Maranta told foxsports.com.au.
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"I am sure that there is a need for a resuscitation. Now whether that comes through Ipswich, Springfield, those satellite suburbs…
"If I look at the Broncos now, they are a shadow of what the Broncos really were, so perhaps another team that has a different set of goals or different direction may well stimulate rugby league.
"I don't know that but it's certainly a bit disappointing when you see that the Broncos aren't represented in the Emerging Origin squad.
"I shook my head, I couldn't believe it. I don't think that would have happened in 30 years that we don't have the up-and-coming Origin boys.
"You have a look at who we've lost, that's totally un-Bronco. We never lost anyone.
"The bells are ringing. There's a signal to tell you that something's not quite right."
Those opposed to a second team in Brisbane believe it will only serve to dilute a market that is arguably the strongest in rugby league at present but that's not a viewpoint shared by Maranta.
More than 34,000 fans attended a Crushers-Broncos clash at Suncorp Stadium in 1996 and Maranta is confident a local derby will only strengthen rugby league's foothold in Brisbane.
"We used to get great crowds. When the Gold Coast would come up here we were getting 56,000 at ANZ, and even when the other team was in that only lasted three years and then went belly-up, the Crushers, we got big crowds," Maranta said of the local derbies.
"I kept telling everyone that didn't want another team, we get our biggest crowds when we play you guys. We don't get a crowd when we play Penrith because there's no one here that supports Penrith.
"If you're trying to make money out of bums on seats, why not (have a second team)?"
But after engineering the establishment of one of the biggest brands in Australian sport, Maranta warned that the financials must first add up, pointing to the millions invested by the likes of Darryl Kelly at the Titans as a sign of the investment required.
"The economics have got to be right," said Maranta.
"We were the most highly-sponsored team in Australia, and when I went to England I found that our sponsorship dollars were the equivalent of Liverpool and Man United.
"That's how big we were in terms of sponsorship. We were massive, but not one of them - with the exception of Power's Brewing, which was a fluke - came from Brisbane.
"If you've been in business in Brisbane long enough you'll know there's no money in Brisbane. The money in Queensland is in mining and agriculture, none of which is in Brisbane.
"You've got people such as (Darryl) Kelly on the Coast who keep putting their hands in their pockets but you can't keep doing that forever.
"The issue is that it won't work if they can't get the sponsorship.
"If they can get the sponsorship - and there's a lot more money in Brisbane now 30 years later - then good luck to them.
"I think it's time."